Obsession is a wonderful thing. Being obsessed with something, you will notice how it becomes the context with which you view your world. Things that people say in conversations jump out at you, as if everyone is talking about your obsession. That’s why I think these clichés could possibly be talking about you and your obsession with photography.
1. A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
When you get a shot that is perfect in every way, it sticks to your mind even after you’ve taken many others after it. How many times has this happened, and you can’t take that image off your mind? It’s the one you can’t stop talking about, the one you immediately upload to the website where you share shots with others.
2. Try and try again until you succeed.
Popular with newbies, this is a saying that reverberates when you’re frustrated with a photo shoot. Persistence is a great tool to have in your camera bag, and it’s something you can’t buy. As you progress in photography, there are challenges that you have to take simply because they push you toward growth.
3. The sun also rises.
For those of us who have other jobs, photography is something we do on weekends and after work. Because we don’t have a lot of time to make images, we’re often anticipating that special day when we can just take a walk or go to a photoshoot without worrying about any thing else on a to-do list. Then when we get there, it could be too terribly overcast to make a good landscape shot, or it could be raining too hard for an outdoor portraiture shoot. This is the saying that will bring hope that another day will hold special light and images.
4. Love will find a way.
Challenges keep us coming back to our craft. Learning to light, for example, was a test for me. I was so used to making natural light portraits for years, and then suddenly when I was asked to produce light in a dark room, I had to climb a steep learning curve without falling off.
If you love your craft, you will spend time and effort to nurture it.
Lightning LIGHTING doesn’t strike twice in the same place.
You can’t go back to a place and have the same lighting conditions, the same moment replayed. There is no guarantee that you will have the chance to take the same image you see now in front of you. Seize the opportunity and take the picture, because it will only come in front of your lens once.
6. All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.
You have to make time for personal projects. Work is great because it puts money in your pocket, but personal projects put the zing in your soul. Making time for personal photo projects gives you a creative outlet, and you learn new things that you could integrate into your workflow.
7. Always look on the bright side.
I like this cliché because it reminds me to expose for the highlights when I’m making portraits. But it also reminds me that images that fail also hold lessons. Especially the failure itself. Being afraid to fail is detrimental to growth as a photographer. It means putting aside chances to learn something new because you never try any thing new. The bright side of failure is that you tried, and that because you just got rid of a fear, you now have endless other chances to try again and succeed.
8. A picture’s worth a thousand words.
No caption, no artist’s statement, or long winded speech can replace a good image. One of my mentors Lawrence Ripsher once told me that I had to be able to narrate as well with one photo as I could with a series, and that the one photo had to do better than a series with an explanation. Iconic images, if you want to make them, do not need to be explained. The story is all there, in that one frame.
9. See the glass as half full.
It’s easy to be negative—to see faults and flaws. It is much harder, but more useful, to see the positive. Remembering the positive drives motivation and increases confidence. The more positive things you hold in your head, the better you feel about yourself as a photographer, and the more artistic risks you might potentially take. This translates into even more chances of producing creative, fresh work that is compelling to your audience.
10. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
If you keep yourself open to possibilities, take artistic risks and banish fear of failure, you may one day develop a style. In the beginning of a photography obsession, the focus is on knowledge or craftsmanship (craftspersonship?)—how to control how the camera takes pictures. You’re drawn to tutorials, how to make this exposure, and appreciate those funny little numbers that are supposed to tell you how to go about making a good photo: f/ this and ISO that and 1/something seconds.
Later on, as those technical decisions become part of your automatic skill set, you may begin to explore vision. Vision is the root cause of your obsession with making images, not technique. Anyone can learn technical knowledge, and there are superbly exposed photos floating around that really are technically perfect.
But the photos that inspire us and push us in our own craft are the photos with a vision that stun and reverberate with us long after we see them.
With an obsession like photography, you can find inspiration in almost anything. And when you believe that ‘the universe is speaking to you,’ might you not find time to listen?